Faculty Publications

Determining The Source Of Fecal Contamination In Recreational Waters

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Journal of Environmental Health





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Public health departments bear the responsibility for investigating recreational water-associated disease outbreaks. Tracking the source of the disease is often problematic, however, because routine monitoring of recreational waters (for bacterial counts) is not source specific. The intent of the project reported here was to monitor Esherichia coli levels in a small recreational lake in Iowa and to determine their source. The authors monitored water samples for E. coli and used phenotypic methods to analyze multiple samples of lake water, well water, and known fecal sources. Moderate to high levels of E. coli were found in lake water samples from the swimming area throughout the summer. The highest levels of E. coli were found after rainfall events in both lake water samples and samples taken from monitoring wells. Phenotypic analyses indicated that likely sources of E. coli in the lake included both human and wildlife (goose) fecal material. The authors also found that the phenotype used to characterize E. coli isolated from geese frequenting this lake could not be used to characterize E. coli isolated from geese in a neighboring watershed. Identifying the source of fecal material will help authorities implement the proper preventive measures to avoid fecal contamination of the lake in the future.


Department of Biology

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